Cancer Patient Confessions
When I was diagnosed with breast cancer, I was told that "vanity will go out the window." I heard that the battle against cancer is so mentally and physically draining that the last thing you will care about is your looks. I am here to confess that, after a diagnosis of breast cancer at age 30, chemotherapy, and bilateral mastectomies with extensive reconstruction, I have found a new perspective on vanity.
I am vain out of fear.
Once I was entrenched in my cancer treatment, I feared that if I "threw vanity out the window," I would lose who I was as an individual. I have always done my hair and makeup before leaving the house. I have always given a great deal of thought to the clothes that I wear each day. I have always focused on keeping my body fit and trim. Why should I change who I am just because cancer crept into my life? The answer is that I shouldn't.
So, I confess that vanity is my defense mechanism against cancer.
Losing my hair
Due to the chemotherapy treatments, I lost my hair. As the hair began to fade away, I shaved it all off. I was bald. Of course, being vain, I was excited that I didn't have to shave my legs or wax anywhere for months at a time. However, I was less than thrilled that I would have to wear a wig in front of every single person I know (or don't know), excluding my husband. But, in sync with my vanity, I bought the most fabulous wig ever in existence.
Then came the loss of my eyelashes and eyebrows. This was an absolute shock because my lashes and brows fell out a month after I was finished with chemotherapy. I was especially frustrated because, even when I was bald, I valued my long, lush eyelashes and arched eyebrows, which still gave me some femininity. No more. Applying false eyelashes and eyebrow filler became another step in my vanity routine.
Losing my breasts
As for the bilateral mastectomies, I decided that, since I was undergoing reconstruction of the breasts and eventually getting implants, I would make my boobs bigger and better to make my body look as fabulous as possible. I started off by buying breast prosthetics with a mastectomy bra, as I could not bear the thought of walking around flat chested. Every two weeks, I would go to the doctor to get liquid injected into the breast tissue expanders, which were surgically placed where a permanent implant would eventually go. Regardless of the fact that I needed 13 tissue-expansion procedures to stretch the area enought to provide room for the large implants on my small frame, I did it. After all, I had to keep up with my vain self.
While I admit that cared about my looks prior to my cancer diagnosis, I was never a fake person inside or out. However, to keep my looks up after I lost my hair, eyelashes, eyebrows and breasts, I had to rely on fake materials: Wig, false eyelashes, drawn-in eyebrows, prosthetic bras and breast implants. I was faced with either dropping vanity altogether, which had become my defense against cancer, or accepting that these fake things were just things and that they did not define who I am. I realized that these fake things were my little helpers to get me through this rocky road in my life.
I'm here, I'm vain and I'm well, inside and out. So, I confess again: Vanity is my defense mechanism against cancer.